While Belize is home to an amazing array of fish and other sea creatures, its manatees deserve some attention. Historically interpreted as the rationale behind seaside claims of mermaids, these gentile creatures are amazing to watch in motion. Furthermore, manatees are fascinating enough that tours have sprung up with a focus on bringing people into close proximity with them. Learn more about these sea cow relatives of the elephant and aardvark below and see if you think a tour would be up your alley.

Belize is home to three varieties of manatees.

  1. The West Indian manatee, which hangs out along the coasts of the southern United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
  2. The fresh-water dwelling Amazonian manatee, which hangs out hangs out within the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers.
  3. The Antillean manatee, which hangs out in the shallow waterways (between 2 and 6 meters deep) of Belize.

The name for the manatee genus is “Trichechus,” a Latin term alluding to the tiny hairs found along their bodies. Their order name, Sirenia, is derived from the bewitching sirens of Greek mythology who would lure sailors to their dooms.

An average adult manatee clocks in between 1,500-1,800 pounds with a total body length ranging between 10 and 12 feet; females tend to be the larger examples of these animals. The term “sea cow” likely arose out of the manatee’s tendency to graze on vegetation in a manner similar to a bovine. A manatee consumes roughly 100 pounds of food a day, accounting for 4-9% of its total body weight. Considering how often these creatures dine on plants growing in sand, they continually grow new sets of teeth to replace old, worn-down ones.

The daily life of a manatee consists of eating for 6-8 hours, sleeping anywhere from 2-12 hours and swimming through the waters for the rest of the time. Manatees leisurely swim by moving their tail up and down like a whale and travel at a leisurely 2-6 mph. If a manatee must react quickly, it can move as swiftly as 15 mph.

If you are planning a trip to Belize and have some interest in manatees, you will need a place to stay. To that end, consider staying with Black Orchid Resort. Not only does Black Orchid Resort offer top accommodations, but it also allows its patrons to book a guided tour focused on manatees.